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Club Spotlight: Springsure

Springsure-Jockey-Club-facebook-01.jpgBy Jordan Gerrans

When it comes to racing in the Central Highlands region of Queensland, surnames such as Bell and Roberts have been there every step of the way over the generations.

“We are the only ones really left,” former jockey Billy Bell, who grew up in Springsure, says with a laugh.

While Billy no longer resides in Springsure - the former leading bush rider now lives up the road in Clermont, where he is president of the local race club - plenty of his extended family remain.

Bruce Roberts, Billy’s cousin, is the president at the Springsure Jockey Club in 2021 and has been for years, with his wife, Trudy, the current secretary.

If not for the Bell and Roberts’ families, the racing industry in the area wouldn’t be what it is today.

“We have been in it for years and generations before us, we are fairly ingrained,” Trudy Roberts said.

“Bruce’s grandfather was a jockey around the Central Highlands and the Bell family – they are all related.

“The grandmother was a Roberts on the Bell side. It is in the families blood. There has always been racing in the family.

“That is how I got involved in the racing and I have been in the job since.”

While Billy is no longer riding – much of his family are still regular participants on both the non and TAB racing circuit.

Daughter Emma, who is 33 years of age, is a reliable rider around Central and North Queensland – grabbing a winning double earlier this month at Barcaldine and another victory at Mackay just a few days later.

Emma has hovered around 25 winners a season in each of the last five campaigns.

Billy’s wife Jenny holds a trainers licence, as does his sister Glenda – a renowned trainer around the state.

“We all come from Springsure originally,” Billy said.

“I went to Rocky for school when I was young before moving around the area for my riding, staying at Clermont.”

Billy, now 64 years of age, rode a stack of winners at the Springsure track as a young fella he recalls, regularly riding for his uncles, many of whom were trainers in their own right.

“It was good racing, it has always been good bush racing out in this country,” Billy said.

“A lot of properties raced horses in my younger days, they are all gone now.”

Springsure-Jockey-Club-facebook-07.jpgBilly gets his name from his grandfather, Billy Roberts, who was also a jockey and was referred to as the “gun of the west” according to his grandson.

While Billy, Emma and Glenda, who trained 21 winners last season, live in surrounding towns, their extended family keep the race club ticking along back home in Springsure.

Secretary Roberts, who has been in the role since 2011 and had an earlier stint in the job also, says the small community comes together for their race days.

“We are a small club and committee but we get the job done,” Roberts said.

Trudy’s husband Bruce has been president at Springsure for around a decade.

Springsure, which boasts a population of just over 1000, operates two different race clubs and it has been that way for decades.

Springsure Jockey Club race their annual meeting this coming Saturday in September with the Springsure St Patrick's Day Race Club hosting their meeting earlier in the year.

The two clubs operate as separate bodies and share facilities at the Springsure Racecourse.

“That it is a big one every year in March and ours is the smaller affair – ours is a bush race really,” Roberts said.

“We get a crowd of around 500 people maximum, which is a good number for us to provide a good country race meeting.

“We have always been the two separate clubs; Springsure St Patrick's Day have been around for around 60 years while we have been around for over 120 years.

“We are very lucky our council help with the maintenance of the track for both clubs because it is a very big thing for two days of racing a year.”

Racing is still going strong in the Capricornia region in Australia but as Billy recalls, the numbers of participants is not what it used to be.

“In the old days we had 10 trainers and jockeys in Emerald and these days, Emma is one of the only jockeys on the Highlands,” he said.

“Emma travels to Moranbah to ride work for Bevan Johnson.”

Jenny will take a maiden galloper from Clermont to Springsure to race this week and Billy says he is looking forward to seeing daughter Emma back riding on his old home track.Springsure-Jockey-Club-facebook-03.jpg

Emma has not ridden there for a couple of years but said she is looking forward to getting back to the track.

Racing on a sand track, Roberts says lots of work has gone into getting the racing surface up to scratch in the lead-up to the September races.

“It should be right for race day,” Roberts said.

Roberts says the club is always on the search for new members and those keen to get involved in the committee.

The 2021 Springsure Cup will be run as a Benchmark 65 Handicap over 1400 metres with $12,500 on the line, one of five non-TAB races to be run this Saturday.

Club spotlight will be a regular feature that shines a light on the unique and individual racing clubs across Queensland.